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For 36 days, I ran 10 kilometers every day. Here’s What I Found Out

At the end of the day, it’s testing the limits of my human capacity.

For the past 36 days, I have run at least 10k a day as part of a fitness challenge to do the One Punch Man challenge. The challenge includes running 10k every day, doing 100 sit-ups, 100 squats, and 100 push-ups. The latter three are much more challenging to me than the run on some days, but the squats, push-ups, and sit-ups are all getting a lot easier. As someone who has run competitively through high school and college, the 10k a day was only a slight bump from the training I was already doing, and on some days, I run much more than 10k depending on what I feel like doing in my training.

One day, sooner rather than later, I hope to beat my personal best of 2:40 in the marathon. The goal for the current challenge is to keep up the One Punch Man challenge for 100 days total.

Let me make it clear: running 10k a day is not going to change your life. It’s not going to make you whole, and if you’re not smart about doing it, it might harm you more than it can help you, since overexercising actually has some health risks. I don’t want to oversell and say it’s something it’s not. I’ve been running for a long time, so running 10k a day wasn’t a big jump for me. But running every day has massive health benefits, including lower risk of developing cancer, improved sleep, and improved mood, according to Daniel Bubnis at Healthline.

I’ve talked about exercise being a privilege before, but running itself is a huge privilege within the exercise world. You need food, time, energy, water, and shelter to be able to run. You also need a safe place to run. People generally think of running as a low cost of entry sport since you don’t have to buy much equipment, but running shoes can be very expensive, and signing up for races like marathons can consume hundreds of dollars at a time. Additional clothing like spandex during the winter months, shades, and gloves can also be pretty expensive, so count your graces if you’re even thinking you can run 10k a day.

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But running has allowed me to undoubtedly put running firmly back in my life and prioritize my health and fitness. Yes, I was able to do 100 push-ups, sit-ups, and squats, and have written about it extensively. I have seen massive results in muscle gain in my upper body. This time, however, I will focus on the consistent running of at least 10k a day without taking a day off.

Here’s how:

Internalize your goals
Running 10k a day can be a massive waste of time and energy if you’re not doing it for the right reasons. And running that much every day perhaps isn’t actually the best you can do for your health.

According to Elizabeth Narins at Active, the health benefits of exercise diminish among people who run more than 20 miles a week, more than six days a week, or faster than eight miles an hour. Runners who followed the guidelines of running five to 19 miles a week at a pace of six to seven miles an hour, spread out through three or four sessions had their risk of death dropped by 25%. One German study Narins cites shows that the hearts of marathoners had more coronary plaque than sedentary people, so extreme exercise might be damaging.

All of this is to say that running 10k a day might not be good for you. There are some conflicting studies, but on some days, I’m more tired and wish I wasn’t on this challenge. Sometimes, it doesn’t seem worth it with everything else I have going on — after all, I’m not in college, when I was training for long-distance races. Since a 10k is 6.2 miles, that would mean running 49.4 miles a week at minimum.

Instead, I run 10k a day as part of a challenge, to complete my goals and commit myself to my fitness. I’m also getting involved in running with other people and have social support with other people who are consistent and devoted runners. Above all, I have a huge sense of accomplishment of what I’ve been able to do every single day, even on days I don’t feel like exercising at all. Running simply makes me feel better in a plethora of ways, from being in a better mood, having better mental health, and sleeping better.

“Running has consistently provided a much more important tool — it’s built self-discipline, will power, and helped unleash my creativity which I bring to my work and passion projects. It’s given me an outlet to deal with the inevitable vicissitudes and stress life continues to dish out,” blogger Emily Rudow says.
And I agree with Rudow — my goals are to improve myself and feel better every single day. And above all, I want to start prioritizing fitness more and more like I used to.

. . .

Start gradually
10k is a lot to do, so it’s essential not to do all of it at once. For a couple of months, my goal was to just run every day, so I put in some three-mile runs, four-mile runs, et cetera. It’s important to have a slow, gradual build-up to avoid getting injured.

Increasing your weekly running mileage is a precarious task — one major running rule is that you shouldn’t increase your weekly mileage by more than 10% at once. Of course, I’ve broken that rule plenty of times, but not by much. I’ll make jumps from 25 miles a week to 35 miles a week, then 35 miles a week to 45 miles a week.

The 10% rule might be an arbitrary number, but it just uses common sense — if you increase your mileage by too much, too soon, you’re going to get hurt. The rule that slow and steady wins the race is certainly the case with building mileage. Even if the 10% rule isn’t followed, coach David Roche prioritizes listening to your body and adjust if your training is not working for you.

“Be willing to leave toughness at the door.”
. . .

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Switch it up
Most serious runners won’t do a 10k easy run every single day as their only form of training. Even if the goal is just to run 10k a day, it’s really boring to do the same run every day. Switching up the distance as well as the workout are what keep me in line. Some days, I’ll do longer runs, and others are just 10k easy runs.

With a couple people, I’ll do workouts on local tracks where I’ll do reps of 400 meters or 200 meters, or a tempo run. According to Runner’s World, a tempo run is a steady, slightly uncomfortable pace that should be 25 to 30 seconds slower than how fast you can run a 5K race.

But it’s not just switching the distance — it’s switching up the terrain. Running is inherently an act of exploration. I used to run in the exact same place and route every single day, but a friend broke me out of that — now, I explore whenever I run, with a goal to run to a new street on some runs. If you travel, running is a great way to explore, especially if you’re running at least 10k a day. Why not make the 10k interesting?

Gina Tomaine at Runner’s World says running while traveling has the benefits of being a possible antidote to jetlag and destressing from travel. Of course, worrying about health and safety are natural as we run during traveling. Tomaine recommends doing homework to see possible race routes and running communities.

Leta Shy at PopSugar notes that running the same route might cause imbalances in the body that lead to injuries since the body reacts to uneven surfaces. I know this personally since running the regular direction on the track — counterclockwise, led me to develop heavy imbalances in the strength of my hips and glutes, with my right side of the body being less strong. That led to a season-ending injury with a torn labrum my sophomore year of college. What helped me recover was substantial stretching and exercises to strengthen the weaker side, but running backward on the track was also helpful whenever I could — Shy recommends running your route backward.

. . .

Get good shoes
Another widely held rule in the running community is that you’re supposed to change your shoes every 300 to 500 miles. I recently started feeling pretty sore on my runs and knew it was time to change out my shoes — I got the exact same pair that served me well my previous 500 miles. However, once I got the new shoes, the soreness was gone, almost like magic.

The local running store is the best place you can go to get shoes. There, employees are trained to fit your feet and see how you run. They can see things like whether you overpronate or underpronate, whether you need a stable, motion control, or a neutral shoe, and they give you several brands of a certain type of shoe to try out before you actually buy them.

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According to Dr. Thomas Allen at Manchester Metropolitan University, the goal of good running shoes is to provide stabilization of the foot and protect the skin from damage. The best running shoes for a runner helps each runner optimize running efficiency — and every runner is different. Runners who strike the ground closer to their heels likely need shoes with more cushioning, while runners who naturally strike closer to their forefoot might benefit from a more lightweight, minimalist shoe.

My training shoes are either stability or neutral shoes. I am an overpronator, and my foot is very, very flat. I have a selection of three different shoes I rotate for my every day training, but Rashelle Brown at Active notes that good running mechanics, not shoes, prevents injury. The right pair of shoes is important, but it’s not a band-aid. Multiple physical therapists Brown interviews recommend addressing mechanics, and if you struggle with injury, many recommend talking to a running technique specialist.

Keep good company
I often joke that I’m running with the two fastest distance runners in Baltimore, but outside of collegiate athletes, it’s largely true. One of the people I do workouts with won the Baltimore Marathon last year, and another is training to break a 4 minute mile. At any moment, these guys can turn on the jets and leave me in the dust, and fortunately, they’re too nice not to.

However, I’ll often get pulled into doing crazy workouts with them that I can’t possibly do in my current shape. One example is the other day, when the two guys had a plan to do two sets of 1 mile, 2 mile, 1 mile with 90 seconds rest between reps, all under 5 minute mile pace. I did the first mile with them at 4:58, and that was everything I had on that day. I didn’t have any more to keep up with their insane workout.

My goal is just to run every day, not be an Olympian. But with the training I’m doing with the company I’m keeping, I have essentially made 10km a day a minimum and byproduct of hanging onto dear life on random runs and workouts.

The lesson is simple — the company you keep can make or break your workout plan, or any goal for that matter. According to Laura Stampler at Everyday Health, keeping workout partners makes you more committed to your goals, less likely to get bored and quit, and feel less stressed. Osborn et al. state in a 2012 study in Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology that emotional support is a powerful source of reinforcement for fitness goals.

Some days, having people to run with is just motivation for getting out the door. No matter how sore you are, having people to talk and converse with makes running significantly less painful. One study by Irwin et al. in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine found that in aerobic exercise, participants who worked out with a partner exercised twice as long as individual participants. Of course, I still have days where I just need a nice, easy run alone.

But it’s always more fun and easier with good company.

One of the major benefits of running 10k a day is obvious — I’ve gotten quicker. I’ve gotten stronger. Last weekend, I ran a half marathon in 78, which I could not have done before I started running 10k a day. But also, I’ve been sleeping better and in a better mood every day. Sure, I’m significantly more defined and muscular than I was before the challenge, but that’s not important besides for my vanity.

The pros certainly outweigh the cons. But also, I’ve been sleeping better and in a better mood every day. I’m happier. I can focus and concentrate better. Yes, I’ve been more tired at times, but that usually only comes when I don’t do a good job recovering and taking care of myself. All of these benefits of exercise, particularly from running 10k a day, are not a magic bullet to fix and change your life, but they certainly help.

. . .

Running is a privilege, and I’m certainly glad I’ve gotten to run 10k a day for the last month. Even in my previous streaks of running over long periods of time, it was never as extensive as 10k a day. And it’s been a lot of fun as well — I’ve gotten to run new places I haven’t before in one of the country’s most gentrified cities. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard “Run, Forrest, Run!” in this short time period.

I’ve also gotten to work out with two of the best runners I’ve ever worked out with, and I’ve felt a sense of accomplishment from prioritizing my fitness more and more.

Running 10k a day has given me benefits of increased mood, increased fitness, increased sleep, and increased focus. I’ve also been more tired sometimes for obvious reasons, but it was just a sign I needed to sleep more and hydrate more to begin with.

At the end of the day, testing the limits of my human capacity may eventually help me run a personal best in the marathon again and ascend to a fitness level I’ve never been at before. I’m not there yet — but running 10k a day has made me one step closer to being the best I can be.

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